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SLRD-Pemberton water rates on the boil



Water rates in Pemberton North were a boiling topic at the SLRD Board meeting on Monday.

As request from staff was made for a bylaw-changing decision about rate increases to 52 cents per cubic metre in Area C, where the lowest rate in the village is 70 cents per cubic metre. The village is currently charging residents in Pemberton North $1.04 per cubic metre, leaving a large shortfall.

Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy expressed concern about how a resolution would be found at the Sept. 17 meeting.

"We are coming into a very challenging situation," he said. "It's a very complex issue about the shared water system," said acting chair Patricia Heintzman in an interview following the meeting.

"It's not all of Area C, but just a pocket of Area C is on the Village of Pemberton water system. Essentially, this particular bylaw is an interim step. The whole system needs to figure out a way to pay for itself. The Village of Pemberton currently charges more than the SLRD is charging per unit price to their residents in the village. The added complication is this bizarre factor that Pemberton North residents have this $1,000 partial tax, plus (an additional) rate, so in theory they are paying $1,400."

The bottom line is, she said, that the rates needed to go up to cover cost shortfalls, but it can only be raised to a certain level before being required to go back to electoral assent or ministry assent.

"This particular bylaw adjustment brings us up to that maximum. The Village of Pemberton is concerned that it's not going far enough, because there's going to be much more expense down the road and we have to be planning and adjusting for that.

"This interim step brings us up to what we can do if we want to be able to charge more... It's not a stalemate, it's the process you have to go through... and the idea is that we go through the process before March, for the 2013 budget."

Heintzman said that technically the Village of Pemberton can set the rate, and that is where the negotiation needs to happen.

"It's complicated because of all these weird little partial taxes and all these different systems... and the Village is trying to figure out how to pay for their system, too."

The important thing for the public to understand, Heintzman added, was that this was a single step in a process of increased rates because "you can't not pay to cover the costs of utilities."

In his report to Pemberton council the following day, Sturdy said the issue was problematic. "I raised some objection to the rates that were proposed," he said. "Given that we're currently billing them $1.04 per cubic metre, and then bringing the bylaw rate to 52 cents is obviously a concern.

"Another concern is that their rate of consumption is triple ours (per connection)... we don't know why that is, whether it's unmetered agricultural properties... but the point is they are charging their customers a flat rate."

Slow Food Cycle attracted 4,000

Organizers of Pemberton's 2012 Slow Food Cycle said an estimated 4,000 people took part in the annual foodie ride up Pemberton Valley in August.

Organizer Niki Vankerk presented their report to Pemberton council at the village's regular council meeting on Sept. 18 and said that 3,500 were officially counted but many more had participated.

The current working model, which involves a $2,000 grant from the Village of Pemberton, was a "good template to work from, which is great," she added. Municipal staff time in assisting in organizing the slow ride had been cut from 50 to 25 hours.

They hope to encourage more people to register next year, which will allow them to better keep track of numbers to be able to apply for support grants. Donations, which will be applied to 2013's costs, were just over $5,000.

Parking continues to be a challenge, Vankerk said, with refinements being considered for 2013. The numbers currently taking part are acceptable, but a sudden jump could be too much, she added.

In terms of participants, 30 per cent are from Vancouver, 60 per cent from the Sea to Sky region, and 10 per cent are from elsewhere. Vankerk noted that the slow ride featured in American Airways' inflight magazine in July.